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Studying the history of the Olympics and comparing it to the modern-day games can be a great tool for learning across the curriculum. You can include map skills when locating ancient Greece, measuring distances in math, researching figures in Greek Mythology, learning the origin of vocabulary words and even have physical education when trying out some of the Olympic events. Use the Magic Tree House, Hour of the Olympics as a springboard to an Olympics for Kids unit.
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A Little About the Book
This time the Magic Tree House takes Jack and Annie to ancient Greece. They meet Plato and learn about the very first Olympic game which took place around 776 BC. Here are some questions/events that you will want to discuss with you students or have them answer in writing:
1. Find Greece on the map. Draw a sketch of it.
2. Plato says he is a philosopher. What is a philosopher? (Look it up for a dictionary skill practice)
3. Annie finds out that girls are treated differently in ancient Greece. Name the ways. (Girls were not allowed to go to school. Women were not allowed to be in plays so men dressed as females to act in the play. Girls were not allowed to write stories. They were not allowed to attend or participate in the Olympic games.)
4. The female poet could not use her real name so she used the word “anonymous" as the author’s name. What does that mean?
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Researching and Presenting a Greek god
The Olympics were started to honor the Greek gods by having physically fit bodies. As part of their religion, the Greeks believed, there were many gods and heroes. Each group of students can research a different figure from Greek mythology. Have one member of the group dress up in a costume of the character. The group will then present their information to the class.
Plato (not one of the Greek Gods) - philosopher
Nike- goddess of victory
Zeus- ruler of the Greek gods
Others not mentioned in the book:
Hera- Wife of Zeus
Poseidon- God of the sea
Athena-Goddess of Wisdom, daughter of Zeus
Apollo-son of Zeus, God of music and medicine
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Physical Education and Math in the Olympics!
Legend says that the only events in the first few ancient Olympics were running races. Plan some races for your students. If you have access to the school’s track that is great or use the playground or gymnasium (a Greek word!) Math activities: Measure the distances that the runners will go. Use a stopwatch to time the races and compare results.
Later events in the ancient Olympics included a javelin throw. In the classroom use drinking straws as javelin! Have groups of three or four students stand behind a line on the floor marked with masking tape. Toss the javelins. Measure the distance. Winner moves to the next round. What is the farthest distance the “javelin" traveled?
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The modern Olympics started in 1896 and the events have changed over the years. Women were allowed to start competing in 1900 and the winter games began in 1924. List some of the important events as you brainstorm with your students: track, swimming, skiing, skating, basketball, volleyball, bobsled, cycling, diving, etc.
Then ask your students to write about the event in which they would like to win an Olympic medal and why.
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You've Earned a Gold Medal
The Olympics were started to showcase those who were physically fit. The determination, hard work and sacrifice are worthy of praise. The Olympics for Kids unit of study will hopefully inspire your students to become involved with an activity to keep them physically fit and grow positive self-esteem. In addition, you have connected math, social studies, writing, vocabulary and physical education into a fun and current lesson.
- Classroom experience.